Elsa took to the balcony when she finally had enough of party guests coming up to her making nice. She knew they all wanted something, trade rights, a bill passed, someone appointed to some office, and her patience was wearing thin for it.
Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life.
She sighed and rested her hands on the railing of the balcony. She surveyed the fjord, ships were scattered throughout, many of them strung up with lights and she could vaguely make out the pattern of people dancing and laughing. In the town below there was no mistaking the rousing sound of folk music clashing with the classic quartet from the coronation party above. There was laughing and drinking and dancing below and the city was aglow.
"They have their parties and we have ours," said a man's voice from behind her.
Elsa turned, startled, to see a tall man with ginger hair and sideburns to match. He was dressed all in white like some sort of good knight in a fairy tale. Elsa had to admit he was very dashing looking, very handsome, and something about his smile put her at ease.
"Beg pardon?" Elsa said.
"Forgive me Your Majesty," he bowed, "I didn't mean to startle you. I thought the balcony would be unoccupied. Prince Hans of the Southern Isles."
"Ah…" was all Elsa could say.
She hoped the man would leave now. She severely hoped his presence wouldn't attract more unwanted visitors. Then again it seemed the duke was busy entertaining the crowd with his continued impressions of exotic animals on the dance floor.
"Do you ever wish you could sneak out and join them?" Hans asked, coming to stand beside her watching the townspeople below.
"No," she said.
"I've done it," he laughed. "When I was a young. I used to sneak out on Christmas Eve or Easter night and go pretend to be a commoner and get roaring drunk."
He laughed at the memory. He settled his elbows onto the railing and turned to look at Elsa.
"And you, Majesty?"
"No. I never snuck out."
She kept her answers short. If he sensed her annoyance at his presence it only worked to spur him on because he was smiling.
"Don't tell me you've never been drunk before either…"
Elsa felt her face turn a slight shade of red and she didn't answer.
"You've never….? Oh Majesty, we've got to remedy that immediately," he said, sitting up.
"You're rather impertinent," Elsa said trying her best to add an edge to her voice. But it was hard to be mad at him. There was something soothing about his presence.
"And you should see me after a few pints," he laughed. And against her own wishes Elsa actually smiled at that. She bit her lip trying her best to suck it back in and turned to look at the fjord again. But it was too late he caught her.
"I knew she could smile," he laughed. "You seemed distraught, Majesty, is the coronation high wearing off so quickly?"
"I get one night as queen with nothing to do," Elsa said, "And ten bright and early I'm signing documents, writing letters, and passing laws tomorrow."
"You ought to enjoy tonight while you can," Hans said.
"Easier said than done," Elsa said. She thought of how Anna had angrily stalked off after their few minutes of laughter. For a second it had been like it always had before it all went wrong. And with the gates closing tomorrow, Elsa wasn't sure Anna would ever forgive her.
Hans must have taken note of her demeanor. He cleared his throat, stepped out, straightened himself, placed one hand behind his back and offered one to her.
She was at equal forces trying both not to take his hand and take it all at the same time. Perhaps some wine would do to lighten the weight on her chest. And Hans seemed sincere enough. And something behind his eyes echoed Elsa's own desire to escape. Perhaps they could escape together…
"I don't think tonight is a particularly good night for it," she said motioning to the party. But every argument in her head was just a way of preparing herself to go and she knew it.
"Trust me," he said nodding to the party, "Tonight is a perfect night."
She sucked in a breath, sighed, rolled her eyes in defeat, and took his hand.
Elsa was on her second (large) glass of wine on the balcony. Hans had already downed two. She was beginning to feel a buzz in her head, which felt like it was floating on her neck. Her limbs felt more fluid, though they probably didn't look it when she moved. Suddenly everything became funny.
"Twelve older brothers sounds awful," Elsa laughed.
They were standing closer to each other than they ought to be. In the back of her mind Elsa worried that someone would see the queen, downing wine goblets on the balcony with a man. But the more Hans spoke the less she cared.
"I'd give anything to trade you. One younger sister sounds like heaven in comparison," Hans said.
"Not always…" Elsa said, sobering a little. She vaguely wondered how her powers might react to her inebriated state. The storm usually whirling behind her chest felt calmer than usual in truth. But a part of her wondered if that was because of the alcohol or the person she was with.
"You must have gotten away with a lot though," Elsa said, "The youngest always gets away with everything."
"It's easy to get away with things when three of your brothers pretend you're invisible for years," Hans said. Elsa winced. "It's nice to be here, and to be noticed."
Elsa took another sip and she felt Hans eyes on her. She forced herself not to look back at him. She wasn't sure what would happen if she did.
"Do you know your constellations, Majesty?" he said, looking away from her and to the sky.
"Not as well as I should," she admitted.
Then he put an arm around her and Elsa felt a spring of butterflies let loose in her stomach. He placed his hands on her shoulders and gently directed her. She felt her heart rate accelerating and she clenched her hands, afraid of what might happen. The gloves were frost-free so far.
"Do you see that one?" he asked.
He leaned into her from behind. His front was nearly flush to her back and his head hovered over her shoulder, their cheeks nearly touching. One of his hands released her shoulder to point at the sky.
"It's the foot of Dvalin, the dwarf," he said.
In all honestly Elsa had absolutely no idea where he was pointing. The sky was littered with stars in every direction. And she was too busy trying to calm down her heartbeat and focus on not letting the wine make her do something incredibly stupid.
"And of course," he said, "farther down is Thiassi's Eyes. Very bright."
He lowered his head down to sit on her shoulder now, a liberty she would never allow if she was not about to go on her third glass of wine. She was breathing fast and shallow. But then she felt hands rest on her waist, as if to calm her. Her better judgment was out the door at this point and she allowed herself to lean into his light grip.
"I like sailing a lot," he hummed, "So I memorized many of the stars, how they change over the seasons. They beautiful."
When his eyes were on her again she was fairly certain that he was no longer talking about the stars. And then she let her head turn to face his. She saw green eyes calmly looking back at her, but there was a seriousness in there. And then he made the mistake of letting his eyes flicker down a few inches to what must have been her lips. She swallowed and held his gaze.
This would be such a mistake. In the morning she'd wake with a pounding head and groan at the memory of what she did, what she let happen. But right now only the stars were watching them. A cloud must have moved in front of the moon because shadows were cast over them, as if nature meant to hide them from the world for a few minutes.
He was leaning in. And she had no intention of moving away or fleeing. He was watching her closely as he got closer and she returned his gaze until, at the last second she let her eyes lightly close. In the dark she felt him only inches away.
But some things are just too good to be true.
"Your Majesty!" a voice called.
They sprung away from each other like rabbits and Hans managed to knock his goblet, still holding wine, right off the railing.
"Ah, Majesty, there you are!"
Of course it was the duke. She looked over to Hans to see him seething at the diminutive man and she stifled a giggle.
"Your Majesty, I was wondering if we might discuss our current trade agreement. Don't tell me you're holding back on me now," he said, feigning hurt.
"I would never," she replied, deadpan.
The duke prattled on and she looked on the other side of the balcony where Hans was making faces at the back of the duke's head. Elsa gave him a look and he shrugged.
"Well, Majesty, I can see you're busy. I apologize for the lost goblet," he said looking over the railing edge.
"I have seven thousand and ninety nine more, I assure you," she said with a smile.
He nodded and came over to bow, holding his hand out, expecting hers. She offered him her gloved hand. He pressed a quick kiss to it and stood. He went to move past her but lingered for a few seconds.
"I should hope to see you later, Majesty," he whispered, "I don't believe you and I were quite finished."
Her cheeks went a darker shade of their already drunken flush. She gave him the smallest nod and he returned to the party and Elsa was forced to return her attention to the duke. She listened to him prattle and looked up at the night sky to distract herself. Somehow the stars seemed to shine less bright with Hans away.